Ernests Gulbis Continues Resurgence By Triumphing In Qualifying At Halle; Sugita Qualifies
Adam Addicott, Tennis Atlantic
Ernests Gulbis has continued his recent spike in form with a successful qualifying campaign at the 24th Gerry Weber Open.
The Latvian entered Halle with a fresh burst of confidence after reaching the fourth round of the French Open, his best grand slam performance for two years. Following his run in Paris, Gulbis returned to the top-60 for the first time since May 2015. Opening up his German campaign against home player Michael Berrer, Gulbis eased to a 6-4, 6-4, victory without being broken.
Next in Gulbis’ qualifying draw was another German, Peter Gojowczyk. The 26-year-old enjoyed a promising start to his grass season by reaching the semifinals at last week’s Manchester Challenger before succumbing to Dustin Brown. In what was a roller coaster meeting between both players, Gulbis overcame a second set blip to win 6-3, 1-6, 6-3. The victory elevates the world No.59 to his 13th ATP main draw of the year.
Gulbis was one out of only two seeded players to triumph in qualifying. The other was seventh seed Sergiy Stakhovsky. Since being troubled by a back injury earlier in the year, the 30-year-old won his first Challenger title in two years in South Korea last month. In his most recent tournament Stakhovsky reached the quarter-finals at the Manchester Challenger. Starting his Halle campaign with a 52-minute 6-3, 6-1, win over Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka, Stakhovsky faced tough opposition against fourth seed Rajeev Ram. 32-year-old Ram has won two ATP titles in his career, both of which were on grass (Newport 2009 and 2015). Despite converting only 3/11 break points, the world No.100 took the win 7-6(3), 3-6, 6-2, to book his place in the main draw in Halle for the fourth time in his career. Stakhovsky is yet to win a main draw match at the tournament.
The only home sucess story was for unseeded Benjamin Becker, a former top-40 player. Facing second seed Denis Istomin in the first round, the 34-year-old edged past the Uzbek player 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. It was only the second time that Becker has defeated Istomin in their eight encounters on the tour. The shock win set Becker up with a showdown against Robin Haase, a player who has reached two ATP quarter-finals this year. Despite being ranked 34 places lower, Becker sealed a main draw place by dismissing the Dutch player 6-3, 6-3, in less than an hour.
Finally, Japanese player Yuichi Sugita was the only player able to progress to the main draw without dropping a set. Kicking-off his Halle campaign with a 6-3, 6-1, win over Nikoloz Basilashvili, he faced compatriot Tatsuma Ito in the final round. Ito knocked out third seed Lukas Rosol in his opening match. Winning 74% of his service points, Sugita eased past Ito 6-2, 6-4. Focusing mainly on the Challenger tour this year, Halle will be Sugita’s first appearance in the main draw of an ATP event since the Australian Open.